Setia by James Penha

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Setia
by James Penha

Somewhere between Melak and Tanjung Isuy
along Borneo’s Mahakam River
we entered the house of an old fisherman.
He led us into a sitting room
divided by a short board fence
protecting a shallow pool of water where,
against the wall,
beneath a crucifix of black ironwood,
steeped a crocodile,
peacefully alert, sure
we dare not disturb
the little girl asleep on its back,
her sweet snores
as zephyrs to its nape.

      “My granddaughter and crocodile
are friends. Take picture yes.
You touch beast?”

      He roused the child so Ferdy and I waded
to tap out fingers lightly on the scales
for our camera
entrusted to our host.
We shared the pictures
with the crocodile’s groggy playmate
who rubbed her eyes
to see Polaroid magic.

      Ferdy interpreted the old man’s Indonesian for me:
“Eight year ago, I fish River
and catch baby crocodile in my net.
We eat not crocodile
when the fish are many,
so I throw it back in water,
but I hear cry like baby orang,
human baby.
I fish more, and again net bring crocodile
to my boat,
and again I hold its tail to throw in River,
when I see it cry. And then of course I know
crocodile is twin, is person.”

      Ferdy explained for me:
“Country people drown second girl
when twins are born,
because twins are bad luck, even in Sumatra
with my Batak tribe still,
but sometimes baby fight to live
and gods help.
They turn baby into animal. The old man he say:
      “‘So I take her home. We feed her
as we feed my granddaughter
who has same age.
She eat not food of crocodile,
only food of my granddaughter.’”
      The old man laughed,
said to me in English,
“She is person. They are as sisters now yes.

      “We call her Setia.” Faithfulness,
Ferdy translated. “And she thank my family
with luck and fortune.”

      We left a gift of rupiah.
Aboard our boat again, I asked Ferdy
if he believes.

      “The people believe,” he said.

      “But you? You wear a university ring on your finger,
you are no animist. What do you
believe?”

      “I believe what I see.
You not?”

      I laughed, pressed him for logic, reason
beyond reasons.

      “‘That is my opinion,’ in Indonesia we say, ‘You have yours.’”

      And Ferdy bore me deeper down the Mahakam,
into the Borneo jungle.

PHOTO: Village on the Mahakam River, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, Borneo. Photo by Rafal Cichawa.

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NOTE: Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. It is located north of Java, west of Sulawesi, and east of Sumatra. The island is politically divided among three countries: Malaysia and Brunei in the north, and Indonesia to the south. It is the only island in the world to be politically administered by three countries at once. Approximately 73% of the island is Indonesian territory. In the north, the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak make up about 26% of the island. The sovereign state of Brunei, located on the north coast, comprises about 1% of Borneo’s land area. A little more than half of the island is in the Northern Hemisphere, including Brunei and the Malaysian portion, while the Indonesian portion spans the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

MAP: Location of Borneo in Southeast Asia.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: One of the best trips my partner Ferdy and I ever took in Indonesia was a week’s journey on a motorboat, with pilot, guide, and cook, down the Mahakam River in Kalimantan, Indonesia’s piece of Borneo. I narrate exactly what I saw and heard at the most intriguing of our stops along the shore in the poem “Setia,” originally published in Pacific International 30 years ago!

PHOTO: Setia with visitors (from left) Ferdy and river guide, along with the little girl she lives with.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work has lately appeared in several anthologies: The View From Olympia (Half Moon Books, UK), Queers Who Don’t Quit (Queer Pack, EU), What We Talk About It When We Talk About It, (Darkhouse Books), Headcase, (Oxford UP), Lovejets (Squares and Rebels), and What Remains (Gelles-Cole). His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Twitter: @JamesPenha

A Perfect Summer Day by Milton P. Ehrlich

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A Perfect Summer Day
by Milton P. Ehrlich

A perfect day begins the night before.
A mackerel net is set in a fireball of a setting sun.
Up at dawn before marauding seals
have cleaned off the catch,
I fillet them on the shore tossing bloody entrails
to screeching gulls hovering overhead
I deliver a feed to my neighbors and friends.
I’m awed by the grandeur of pristine air
and sun-flooded clouds as white as a linen wedding dress.
In a sky lit from behind by a quintessential blueness,
I gather wild strawberries for breakfast.
I munch on June Ellen’s homemade granola
and one of her gargantuan cowboy-cookies.
I cruise across St Mary’s Bay in a Boston Whaler
to snorkel off Wheeler’s Bar at low tide for the mother lode
of bar-clams and maybe even poach a lobster or a bushel
of hefty crabs.
While mackerel and beer-soaked corn are on the grill,
I’ll down a few Mooseheads, before sauntering along
the shore eyeballing red foxes, who sit like Cheshire cats
in front of an old lobster box.
It was used as a table when they were fed by Leonard,
who is now propped up on a throne of pillows.
His glazed eyes still search the horizon for his nemesis,
the seal, his shotgun at the ready, only now, it’s just a cane.
I’m reassured to still see herons, sentinels of the bay,
standing on one leg, hunting for morsels of the sea.
A bevy of piping plovers and terns tiptoe on the sandy shore
in a flurry of white feathers nattering with ospreys, gulls
and cormorant cronies.
Scattering crows, squawking chanticleers cackle,
caw-cawing ahead of me.
I see apparitions of driftwood jungle-creatures,
a gallery of sculptures even Rodin and Giacometti might envy:
A horse head with knots for chestnut eyes, a gnarled octopus
curled around cattail punks reaching for the sky, an elephant
with a broken tusk plunked in plush maidenhair marsh-fern
as if it were a grove where elephants go to die.
A gaunt giraffe feeds on fluttering green leaves
high up in an aspen’s branches, a reindeer’s
bleached white antlers protrude in rust-colored clay
and verdant kelp.
A unicorn dips his horn into the swirling Gasperaux,
sweetening the gushing freshet flow
so smelt can leave the estuary and breed in the sea.
A slow walk in the labyrinthine shallow water
empties my mind into quietness.
monitor the underwater show:
under lucent plankton, schools of silver minnows flash by.
Barnacle-covered fiddler crabs careen sideways
like inebriated pals, a pair of small red fish
stealthily lumber along resembling twin submarines.
I step over cracked carapaces, steamers
and chipped blue mussels
revealing an opalescent inner layer.

Suddenly, I’m dazzled by a four-foot eel darting away
into emerald green eel grass,
reminding me of how Leonard once trapped a slew
of squirming eels, nailing them to a bench, skinning
and smoking them for shipment to a Bavarian Rathskeller.
On the way back I see my father’s profile in a passing cloud
and feel an ache of regret that such an avid fisherman
never got to visit my paradisial bay.
Observing my shadow I reflect on how ephemeral
and transient we are, and how elusive moments
of perfect happiness can be. I also wonder
how come my shadow is so much taller than me.

My perfect day ends slumbering in an old iron bed
with creaking springs that once cranked out
a progeny of eighteen They made do with a hand pump
and a two-seat outhouse, still standing next to the barn
listing to the side like a slowly sinking ship.

PHOTO: Cormorants perched on pier pilings, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Photo by Rixie. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There is no more beautiful destination than Prince Edward Island, Canada. This poem recounts a day in the life on the island.

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NOTE: Prince Edward Island is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, west of Cape Breton Island, north of the Nova Scotia peninsula, and east of New Brunswick. Its southern shore bounds the Northumberland Strait. The island has two urban areas, and in total, is the most densely populated province in Canada. The island’s landscape is pastoral, with wooded areas and rolling hills. The coastline has a combination of long beaches, dunes, red sandstone cliffs, salt water marshes, and numerous bays and harbors. 

MAP: Prince Edward Island circled in red. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Milton P. Ehrlich Ph.D. is an 89-year-old psychologist and a veteran of the Korean War. He has published poems in Poetry Review, The Antigonish Review, London Grip, Arc Poetry Magazine, Descant Literary Magazine, Wisconsin Review, Red Wheelbarrow, and The New York Times.

In the Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy by Wilda Morris

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In the Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy
by Wilda Morris

On this cool November night, I sit at an outside café
surrounded on two sides by five-foot glass walls.
From here, I can see the Baptistery, a corner
of the Giotto’s bell tower. Beyond the Duomo
with its red-orange dome, my view is obscured
by chocolates reflected from a store window.

The piazza is alive with parents pushing strollers,
tourists from a dozen nations dragging suitcases,
snapping selfies on cell phones. Photographers
focus Nikons and Canons. A police car backs out.
Bicycles weave between pedestrians. A toddler
clinging to a big red balloon rides her father’s shoulder.

Leashed black labs sniff each other; the owners
laugh, say ciao. and begin to chat.
The young donna in short skirt twirls
toward the suave young man as his dog
licks his leg. They compare canine companions.
He grins as he tells her a tale about his.

She waves goodbye and starts to go, pulling
on her leash. He calls her back. After more talk,
she puts his number in her cell phone, he puts hers
in his. My lasagna went cold as I watched
something warm between them.

PHOTO:  Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy (2017). Photo by Runoman.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: On my first trip to Italy, I had to choose between Florence and Venice, and picked Venice. It hurt my heart when the train went past Florence, though, and I didn’t get to experience any of that wonderful city. When I had an opportunity to attend a writing workshop in Orvieto, I added several days in Florence to my itinerary. Early one evening, I ordered dinner at a sidewalk cafe in the Piazza del Duomo. Before I went back to the hostel where I was staying, I drafted this poem about my experience there. It is different from my poems about the cathedral, the art galleries, and the Arno River, but it records a fond memory.

Wilda - on the Duomo roof overlooking Florence

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wilda Morris, Workshop Chair, Poets and Patrons of Chicago, and past President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, enjoys traveling as much as writing. She has published over 650 poems in anthologies, webzines, and print publications. She has won awards for formal and free verse and haiku. Her most recent collection is Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick (Kelsay Books, 2019) Her poetry blog at wildamorris.blogspot features a monthly poetry contest.

PHOTO: The author on the roof of the cathedral in Florence, Italy, a few years ago.

Home of the Desert Rat by Robert Coats

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Home of the Desert Rat
by Robert Coats

…I shall give myself
to the desert again—that I, in its golden dust
may be blown from a barren peak,
broadcast over the sun-lands…
                                   —Maynard Dixon, 1935

Three arms of a cloud fuse to form an arrow
pointing at the summit of Picacho Peak,
its flanks of red-orange rock
riven by deep arroyos.

The shack of the Desert Rat is darkened
by a cliff’s shadow thrown across the terrace.
Behind the shack, the steep bank of a desert wash
and nearby, a Model T,
a copse of scraggly cottonwood.

What wound would drive
a man to live here in solitude?
Perhaps at Belleau Wood
he saw comrades blown to bits.
Or returned home from work to find
his house in flames, his young wife
and baby trapped inside.

In the late afternoon light
he walks across the boulder-strewn terrace
to watch the mountain’s purple shadows
drawing long.

At night he steps out to gaze
at the Milky Way’s long shawl
illuminating
the vast and silent sky.

PAINTING: Home of the Desert Rat by Maynard Dixon (1944-1945), Phoenix Art Museum.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  This is an ekphrastic poem; that is, a poem about a painting or photograph. Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) was a well-known painter who lived and worked in the American Southwest, painting the landscapes and people of the region, including many Native Americans.  During the last years of his life, he and his third wife (Edith Hamlin) divided their time between Mount Carmel, Utah, and Tucson, Arizona. By the time of this painting, Dixon was struggling with emphysema, and his mobility was reduced. ¶ The exact location where Dixon set up his easel is unknown, but the available evidence—the chevron pattern on the side of the mountain, the shape of the summit, and the deep arroyo at its base—indicates that the mountain is Picacho Peak, 40 miles northwest of Tucson. But, curiously, the red-orange color (typical of Utah sandstone) and lack of vegetation on the mountain do not match what is shown in the image on Google Earth. Picacho Peak is basalt, a black volcanic rock, and its vegetation is typical of the Sonoran Desert.  We know that Dixon was very fond of the red sandstone landscapes, so it seems likely that his choice of color made use of his well-earned artistic license.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Coats has been writing poetry for more than 40 years. Aside from four poems previously published by Poetry and Places, his poems have appeared on the Canary Website, in Orion, Zone 3, Windfall, Song of the San Joaquin, in two anthologies (Fresh Water: Poems from the Rivers, Lakes and Streams and Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California), in the hand-printed and bound book Gathering Black Walnuts from Cedar Fence Press, and in his book The Harsh Green World, published by Sugartown Publishing.  He is a Research Hydrologist with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

The Light on Sifnos by Barbara Quick

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The Light on Sifnos
by Barbara Quick

How does one describe the light here in this place
where the dawn really does have rosy fingers,
where the mountains glow at night,
their barren slopes a magnet
for the radiance of moon and stars,

Where whitewashed houses on the lowest slopes
are strung like chalky pearls
around the mountain’s throat,

And oleander blossoms burn like hot pink coals?
The shadows are as deep as wells, the air as clear
as something newly born.

Even early morning light burns its mark
on tender human skin, as if the sun were reaching down
to tell us that we’re changing
as surely as the plants that bloom and fade,
each bright blossom’s moment
giving way to new ones.

The ferry comes and goes many times every day,
bringing bright new tourists to the island,
taking others away.

Reprinted from The Light on Sifnos (2021: Blue Light Press)
Copyright © 2021 by Barbara Quick

PHOTO: Kamares, Sifnos, Greece. Photo by Gaetano Cessati on Unsplash 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Quick is a novelist, poet and occasional journalist based in the Wine Country of Northern California, where she lives with her husband, violist and vigneron Wayne Roden. Barbara is best known for her 2007 novel, Vivaldi’s Virgins, which has been translated into a dozen languages, is still in print, and was released as an audiobook in early 2021. Her poem “Skinny-Dipping in Vathy,” which she wrote during a month-long stay on the Greek Island of Sifnos in 2019, was published on October 11, 2020, on YourDailyPoem.com–and is featured in Barbara‘s debut chapbook of poems, The Light of Sifnos, co-winner of the 2020 Blue Light Press Poetry Prize. Barbara‘s fourth novel, What Disappears, will be published by Regal House in 2022. Check out the media links and read more about Barbara and her work at BarbaraQuick.com.

PHOTO: The author on the Greek Island of Sifnos (2019). Photo by Wayne Roden. 

Kobe, Japan by Rafaella Del Bourgo

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Kobe, Japan
by Rafaella Del Bourgo

Under a sky the color of mica and freshly cold,
the first home of my father’s father,
I sit on the platform skirting a temple,
its yard, earth packed by a thousand years of feet.
On the margins, gravel and rock;
a monk drags bamboo tines
to create concentric circles
like ocean waves lapping against a boulder.

He glances my way,
a lone American woman
close to the cemetery where my ancestors rest.
He lays down the rake,
comes to sit beside me,
the map of his faith
in the folds of his shabby robe.

I show him a photograph from 1901,
my family,
Sephardic Jews against a painted backdrop,
obis tight around flowered kimonos.

He nods to a younger monk,
and his face blossoms into smile
as we are served bowls of sweet, hot tea.

PHOTO:  Suma Temple (Kobe, Japan). Photo by Sangaku.

NOTE: Kobe is the seventh-largest city in Japan. With a population of 1.5 millon, Kobe is located on the southern side of the main island of Honshū, about 19 miles west of Osaka. From the mid 1920s until the 1950s, the Kobe Jewish community was the largest Jewish community in Japan, formed by hundreds of Jews arriving from Russia, the Middle East, as well as from Central and Eastern European countries.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I very much liked the Japanese aesthetic, how they made beauty in simple gestures like carrying their lunches in knotted silk scarves. Even the plastic food for restaurant display windows seemed like art; I took home shrimp and peas, and a ball of vanilla ice cream with a maraschino cherry on top. The Japanese rock garden is a dry landscape of boulders set in gravel or sand which is raked to represent ripples in water.   They are meant to create a sense of tranquility. I saw these in many of the Japanese temples I visited.  Kobe was special because this was where my paternal grandfather was raised.

PHOTO: Japanese rock garden. Photo by Nmint.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rafaella Del Bourgo’s writing has appeared in journals such as Nimrod, The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, The Adroit Journal, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Caveat Lector, Puerto Del Sol, Rattle, Oberon, Spillwayand The Bitter Oleander. She has won many awards, including the Lullwater Prize for Poetry in 2003, and in 2006 the Helen Pappas Prize in Poetry and the New River Poets Award. In 2007, 2008, and 2013, she won first place in the Maggi Meyer Poetry Competition. The League of Minnesota Poets awarded her first place in 2009.  In 2010, she won the Alan Ginsberg Poetry Award and the Grandmother Earth Poetry Prize. She was awarded the Paumanok Prize for Poetry in 2012, and then won first place in the 2013 Northern Colorado Writers’ Poetry Contest. Finally, she won the Mudfish Poetry Prize for 2017. Her collection I Am Not Kissing You  was published by Small Poetry Press in 2003, and her chapbook, Inexplicable Business: Poems Domestic and Wildwas published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press. In 2012, she was one of 10 poets included in the anthology Chapter & Verse: Poems of Jewish IdentityShe has traveled the world and lived in Tasmania and Hawaii.  She recently retired from teaching college-level English classes, and resides in Berkeley, California, with her husband.

Kayaking Poem by Donna Zephrine

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Kayaking Poem
by Donna Zephrine

From Bridgeport, Connecticut
To Port Jefferson, New York
Paddling a kayak for 20 miles
Two people working their way across Long Island Sound.
Exercising legs and hip muscles
Building endurance through calm and choppy waters
Staying on the waterway route
Marked by buoys along the way
The smell of salt water
Birds and seagulls flying overhead
Bass, fluke and blue fish jump up from the water
A feeling of freedom
And tranquility.

Photo by Mika Korhonen on Unsplash 

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NOTE: The trip from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Port Jefferson, New York, across Long Island Sound measures about 19.2 miles. Long Island Sound is a tidal estuary of the Atlantic Ocean, lying predominantly between Connecticut to the north, and Long Island in New York to the south. From west to east, the sound stretches 110 miles from the East River in New York City, along the North Shore of Long Island, to Block Island Sound. A mix of freshwater from tributaries and saltwater from the ocean, Long Island Sound is 21 miles at its widest point and varies in depth from 65 to 230 feet.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Zephrine was born in Harlem, New York, and grew up in Bay Shore, Long island. She graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work in May 2017, and currently works for the New York State Office of Mental Health at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center Outpatient SOCR (State Operated Community Residence). A combat veteran who completed two tours in Iraq, she was on Active duty Army stationed at Hunter Army Airfield 3rd Infantry Division as a mechanic. Since returning home, Donna enjoys sharing her experiences and storytelling through writing. Donna’s stories have appeared in the New York Times, Writers Guild Imitative, Suicide, The Seasons, Lockdown, New World, Qutub Minar Review, Summer, War and Battle, Bards Initiative, Radvocate, Oberon, Long Island Poetry Association, and The Mighty. In her spare time, Donna plays sled hockey for the Long Island Rough Riders and serves an advisory board on Heroes to Heroes.

Taos Pueblo by Feroza Jussawalla

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Taos Pueblo
by Feroza Jussawalla

Jim Silversmith stands tall over me
In Taos Pueblo as I admire filigree as delicate
as the ancient work in my Indian hometown,
carved into a storyteller cuff bracelet. Braids frame
the burnt adobe wrinkles, braids tied in
leather and not with Jasmines. A proud Rajput
he, a true Mogul with slit eyes, “¿De done eres tu?”
he asks, in Spanish, Taoseño being
sacred and secret.
We talk about how we were
carried by even more ancient colonizers
into the hearts of subcontinents,
and named by los güeros for a trade,
individuales colonizados, cousins,
our names stuck with the languages,
that grew in fertile and infertile soils
mangled, unmangled, untranslatable.
And yet, here I am translated.

Here I am in Taos Pueblo, nestled in the crook
Of the Sacred Mountain’s mothering shoulder,
mesas turn into rocks piled upon rocks,
pather pati, and merge with the
red-brown sandstone sculpted
by the wind into Arches, sifting, shifting sands
in one grand sweep from Dead Horse to the Deccani plateau
Jahilia, Mongolia, all holy sands from Mecca and Medina
To Chimayo.

We are all the same people
coming overland through the
northwestern passages into the hinterland,
over air, into the Northeastern passages—
coming to fill this vast
Diaspora

PHOTO: Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. Photo by Miroslav Liska.

NOTE: Taos Pueblo is an ancient pueblo belonging to a Taos-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. It’s located about one mile north of the city of Taos, New Mexico. Considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States, Taos Pueblo is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. A tribal land of 95,000 acres is attached to the pueblo, and about 4,500 people live in this area.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Feroza Jussawalla is Emerita Professor of English at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Originally from India, she is the author and or editor, and co-editor of several scholarly works, in postcolonial literature. Her collection of poetry, Chiffon Saris, was published by Toronto South Asian Review Press and The Writer’s Workshop, Kolkotta (2002).

Not Fifteen Days by Laura Schulkind

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Not Fifteen Days
by Laura Schulkind

We round another bend in the river,
what will be one of our last,
hurtle through the white, then
drop into sudden stillness—
a glassy stretch the color of sagebrush—
the only sounds the unrushed dip of the oars and
the canyon wrens calling to their mates.

We take in our last views of this soaring castle
of Muav and Dolomite and Redwall as
we near Lake Mead,
and in the approach, I cannot help
but start to brace for impact—
the speed of cars, the press of work.

I imagine arriving home,
you waiting there,
perhaps giving the geraniums a final watering.
Me smelling of silt and Mormon’s Tea,
and desert rain and sweat. Hair wild and stiff.
Nails ragged. Lips cracked.
Imagine your reaction—a raised eyebrow
as you ask, how long were you on that river?

And I consider how I might answer such a question,
wondering if, like dog years, there
might be river years.
Realize, I could only answer with a question:
By what measure?

The time it takes to bend to a river?
To fall into its rhythm of pool and drop—
leaning into the rapids and
melting into the calm that follows?

Or, the time it takes to bear witness to a two-billion-year-old
hot, steamy slow dance between rock and water?
To climb up layers of limestone, granite, shale and schist—
each step ten thousand years?

The time it takes to learn to see,
to read the ancient story in a vein of granite?

The time it takes to give and accept innumerable kindnesses,
shed our defenses and modesties?

The time it takes for new words to feel familiar in your mouth—
laterals, high-siding, river holes (who knew rivers had holes)?

The time it takes to feel you have shed your skin
and grown a new one?

Or measured instead by Earth’s timeline—
here for a fleeting moment, a sigh on a wind already gone.

Whatever the measure, I realize this:
It is not “fifteen days”.
That answer would clearly be wrong.
My time on the river far longer, and
far shorter than that.

PHOTO: Colorado River, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Photo by Archana Bhartia.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was one of several that I wrote during a two-week period while traveling by dory from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead on the Colorado River (about 280 miles) in May 2019.

PHOTO: The author with her husband  Dan Perlstein on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon (May 2019).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Schulkind, an attorney by day, is entrusted with others’ stories. Through poetry she tells her own. She has two chapbooks with Finishing Line Press, Lost in Tall Grass (2014) and The Long Arc of Grief (2019).  Her work also appears in numerous journals, including Caveat LectorDallas Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, The MacGuffin, Mudlark, Reed Magazine, and Valparaiso Review. Her published work and reviews can also be found on her website, lauraschulkind.com, along with musings on why “lawyer-poet” isn’t an oxymoron.

Rincon Point, Six A.M. by Jonathan Yungkans

CALIFORNIA Atpfiz

Rincon Point, Six A.M.
by Jonathan Yungkans

The sea tears out of its skin,
a Lazarus deshrouding,

navy against an orange
sunrise. Surfers play Jesus,

waiting for a wave to let
them walk on water. No one

talks—words hover like gulls, pick
away silence’s magic—

˖

so I say nothing and watch
their bobbing devotionals,

notice an imprint of huge
feathers in wet sand. Christmas

was last month. Easter’s three away.
So what’s an angel to do

with downtime except to lie
invisible on the sand,

˖

arching like a cat, a wave,
intending neither to leave

or stay, to leave or erase
its mark. The blueness reaches

deeper than bone or sea bed,
thicker than water, dredging

to leave what it can on shore
in a shush and quietude.

Previously published in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Issue 7 (Mar 2021).

PHOTO: Surfer at Rincon Point, California, sunrise. Photo by Atpfiz.

NOTE: Rincon is a surf spot located at the Ventura and Santa Barbara County line in Southern California. Also known as the “Queen of the Coast,” Rincon is one of the most famous surf spots in California, known around the world for its well-formed waves and long rides.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This was one of my pre-dawn road trips heading north—partly for photo ops, partly to snap myself out of despair. Rincon Point is just north of Ventura, California. Locals sometimes frequent it as an early-morning surf stop. It is literally off the beaten track—you drive under the freeway and across the railroad tracks to wind your way there.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who earned an MFA from California State University, Long Beach, while working as an in-home health-care provider. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published in February 2021 by Tebor Bach Publishing.